The 260,000-gallon enclosure (which opened last week) contains the newly-designed Blacktip Reef exhibit, which sustains a delicate coral reef ecosystem reflective of the real deal in the Indo-Pacific environment. Visitors can observe the marine life through a 27-foot window that curves out into the exhibit—providing a 160-degree panoramic underwater view that would even impress Jacque Cousteau. “It’s a heck-of-a room with a view,” says Jack Cover, general curator at the National Aquarium. “The custom-made acrylic panel is clearer than glass. It’s the closest thing to snorkeling off the Fiji islands.”
Make sure to check out all three viewing levels for a unique opportunity to observe how these toothy occupants feed and interact in a group. “We want to show that these beautiful sharks are totally different than those depicted in Jaws movies,” adds Cover. The underwater viewing area showcases different reef habitats—from an underwater cave with corals and bright orange sponges to open water with a flurry of colorful fish (there are more than 70 different species!). You’ll also see five-foot whiprays, wobbegong, and zebra sharks as well as a veteran 500-pound green sea turtle.
Yelena Moroz Alpert is a freelance writer based in Washington, D.C.